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Six Top Tips for Success #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Mei of CCFoodTravel.

Not too long ago—in the middle of this year to be precise—I got an email stating that I was one of ten special bloggers chosen to participate in the Queensland ProBlogger event. I was over the moon, to say the least! In the coming week I prepared myself and my gear for this immersion in the great Australian outdoors, as well as for the blogging workshop with Darren of ProBlogger…

Little did I realise that at the event I would make such cool friends from all over the world, in the form of the other nine bloggers—some of them have even guest posted for me now! I also learned that blogger collaboration is indeed a huge aspect of reaching out to people—something that is yet untapped by my blog. Here are six other handy tips I picked up from the ProBlogger workshop.

  1. Have a system in place: Blog as often as you can, or in a way that suits your lifestyle. Tweet, Facebook, Stumble and employ other social media to help, but mainly do what works for you. Try to keep your blogging activities to a similar time each day of the week. If you know what time your USA market segment wakes up, for example, then try to schedule your tweets for the highest traffic periods of the day.
  2. Re-appraise past posts: It’s good to go back and re-write old posts and make them better, especially those that draw a lot of interest—your top hit posts. You should link those posts to other posts on your blog that you feel are even better. This keeps the readers engaged with your blog and makes your blog sticky.
  3. Test, try, and tweak: We should always strive to improve our existing strategies. Do not be afraid to test out new ideas. Once you have found something that works, keep tweaking it till you can no longer get any better results out of it. Once we implement these new ideas, we should continue to evaluate, assess, and to tweak until we get the desired outcome.
  4. Try to sell your own product: I met many inspiring ladies at this ProBlogger workshop, and they ultimately sold their own products on the blog. I would like to try this out for my blog, but am still “testing, trying, and tweaking” till I find the one!
  5. Plan to monetize: Create a professional-looking media kit and promote yourself in a professional manner. Advertisers are investing their time and money in you, so don’t be afraid to make yourself sound as good as you truly are. Adding testimonials and media mentions helps! And create an at-a-glance rate card that will help you to be more efficient in replying to emails!
  6. Blogger collaboration: Make friends, exchange business cards, and learn what makes the other bloggers’ blogs so special. And ask for guest posts and give give them out generously too, when you’re asked for them. That’s the best way to reach the untapped audience!

Have you used any of these strategies on your blog? I’d love to hear your top tips for blogging success in the comments.

Mei and her husband Jo, are avid travelers, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For some delicious food porn and adventure travels, check out CCFoodTravel. In our spare time we also write for our fitness and health blog, Cikipedia. Alternatively check out our extreme sports/adventure blog, WHOAAdventures. Follow Mei on Twitter.

How Gordon Ramsay Can Increase Your “Expert” Value by 23,900%

This guest post is by Amy Harrison of Harrisonamy.com.

To the public, not all experts are created equal.

What’s more, this division exists in all industries, and in every blogging niche.

And it’s not just about working harder, or longer than other people. It’s about knowing how to rise through the ranks of the expert “hierarchy.”

To illustrate, consider for a moment the difference between a chef in a restaurant, a head chef in a five-star restaurant, and then Gordon Ramsay.

In reality, they could have the exact same cooking abilities, but in terms of perceived value, you’re looking at an annual wage of: $30,000, $100,000 and … $24million.

Between the head chef and Gordon Ramsay, that’s an increase of 23,900%

This might seem like quite a leap, but when you understand the following five rungs on the expert ladder,  you’ll see how your own value can change dramatically in the eyes of your audience.

1: Generalist (the fry cook)

Most start out as generalists in their careers. In chef terms, this is like a fry cook. You can cook a number of different meals, but could be replaced by someone with little training and experience.

Your blog is on this level if:

You’ve just started and are still finding your blogging voice. You might cover a variety of topics, or taking a general view of a wide subject such as health and beauty or finance.

You’ll notice other bloggers writing about your subject and may be struggling to get your content shared and traffic to your site.

This is your starting step, and the launch pad of your expert journey. If you want to start standing out though, you need to move to the next level which is…

2: Specialist (the vegan chef)

Here you have a more focused area of expertise, for example a chef who only creates vegan meals. This specialist view means that when it comes to vegan cuisine, we value this level of expert more than the fry cook.

Your blog is on this level if:

You’ve drilled down your blogging topic to a more specific niche, such as skin care routines to help with acne, or how to get the best deal from credit cards.

By covering a smaller topic, your blog content has a more consistent theme, and you’re able to make points which are more in-depth and of greater value to your audience. You’re less overwhelmed by what other generalist bloggers are writing about and more aware of what topics fit into your niche, and what don’t.

This is where some bloggers stay, yet it’s only the second rung on the expert ladder.

You can continue to increase your expert value by moving to the third stage which is…

3: The certified specialist (the five-star restaurant chef)

People love credentials.

A certified Executive Chef has a competitive edge over someone with only “hands-on” experience.  They might both know how to cook a great steak, but when a Michelin starred restaurant is hiring, who do you think they pick for the position (and handsome compensation)?

Your blog is on this level if:

You have relevant qualifications within your topic AND you are displaying them on your blog, letting readers know your certified level of expertise.

If your goal is to prove your expertise to your audience, don’t underestimate the value of a sign that says “Approved by the Board Of…” and “Certified Specialist in…”

After that, you’re ready for the fourth stage of expertise.

4: Expert authority (the food critic)

Expert authorities invest time creating more in-depth studies and publishing the results. They may also have a firm stance on issues within their niche (which may or may not be controversial).

This is like a chef who has spent a year travelling to produce a guide to the top seafood restaurants, or written a paper on the effect of global warming on seasonal food production. Others can then access this information as a “shortcut” to answers without having to do the research themselves.

Your blog is on this level if:

You have published an in-depth white paper, ebook or series of articles. You may choose to focus on a recent trend in your industry, or some controversial news, or to simply create a “shortcut” to a more complex matter.

For example:

  • a white paper on why native plants should be encouraged into any garden
  • an ebook about how changes in financial legislation will affect home owners
  • a series of articles explaining a complicated news topic such as the SOPA bill.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, if you do the research others don’t want to (e.g. the top 100 free resources for web designers) you will gain an authoritative status.

From there, we move to the final rung of the expert ladder which is:

5: All of the above, plus celebrity status (Gordon Ramsay)

The highest level of being an expert comes with celebrity status. This is about being the go-to person within that niche.

Millionaire Chef Gordon Ramsay has 13 Michelin Stars, has published 21 books, has a controversial, outspoken style, and is featured in his own TV shows.

An extreme example? Perhaps, but if you’re passionate about your subject, why not strive for the highest level of expertise? Reaching this level takes hard work, but it might be the hard work people in your industry aren’t doing.

Warning: You cannot build celebrity status without having anything to say, or being properly qualified on your subject. You might see many bloggers shoot to fame seemingly overnight, but the ones that stay at the top are the ones who have mastered their art and skills for years.

Your blog is at this level if:

You are consistently producing and promoting content based on your expertise.

Some of the tools bloggers have used to achieve a celebrity status include:

  • “out of the box”  ways of getting online attention
  • offline speaking at conferences
  • guest posting regularly on other blogs
  • writing for trade publications or magazines
  • pitching for interviews on other websites
  • pitching your side of a current news story to media outlets
  • writing regular books or ebooks
  • holding regular events for example webinars, seminars and teleseminars
  • hosting your own online TV show
  • having a regular radio podcast.

Achieving this level as a blogger means you expand your audience and attract people who are willing to pay more to work with you, not just because of what you are trained to do, but because they get access to you.

What do you think? Who do you see as other experts in your industry, and can you see how they’ve used different tools to increase their value to their audience?

Next have a look at where you are and see what you can do get to the next level of blogging expertise!

Amy Harrison is a copywriter and content marketer for Personality Entrepreneurs wanting to connect and sell authentically to their audience. You can now download her free report on how to write sales copy when personality is part of your business at Harrisonamy.com.

Make Your Blog Load Faster than ProBlogger: Part 2

This guest post is by Devesh of WP Kube.

A few months ago, I wrote a guest post here called How to Make Your Blog Load Faster than ProBlogger. Today, I’ll go into some more detailed advice to help you speed up your site even more.

If you’re a blogger, you already know about the importance of blog loading speed, and the role it plays in search engine rank and marketing your blog. But if this is new territory for you, here are three quick reasons why you need to speed up your blog:

  1. Google includes website loading speed as an important metric in their ranking algorithm. If you want your blog to rank high in the search results, you need to make sure your blog loads faster than others.
  2. It can increase the quality of your blog’s user experience and engagement. Having a good-looking blog won’t make your readers’ experience better if it takes ages to load. You need a theme that loads fast and is well coded.
  3. It can help you decrease your bounce rate, and we all know that the lower your bounce rate, the better your chance of driving engagement and generating leads.

Before we get started, check out these five tools you can use to measure your WordPress blog’s loading speed.

1. Optimize your database

One of the very first things that a blogger needs to do is optimize your blog database and delete the post revisions. You can use phpmyadmin to clean up the database, but if you don’t want to play with phpmyadmin, you can set up WP-Optimize instead.

Make sure to remove all the unnecessary tables, old post revisions, and spam comments from your blog’s database. You can use the Better Delete Revision plugin to remove those post revisions, too.

2. Use CloudFare

CloudFlare is a (free) service that makes your blog faster, safer, and smarter. In other words, CloudFlare supercharges websites. It is a CDN service that will protect and accelerate your website, and doesn’t interfere with the WordPress Caching system (W3 Total Cache).

This plugin keeps your blog safe from the Hacking attacks, spammers, and bots by challenging them with a CAPTCHA system whenever it doubts a user’s authenticity. With this tool, you’re easily able to block the spammers’ IPs and websites with just few clicks.

3. Use the P3 plugin

P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) is one of the best plugins for those wanting to see a performance report of their blog. It comes with a lot of great features, but primarily, it can show you what plugins are slowing down your blog.

It creates a profile of your WordPress site’s plugins’ performance by measuring their impact on your site’s load time. Often, WordPress sites load slowly because your plugins are pooly configured, or because you’re using so many of them. By using the P3 plugin, you can home in on anything that’s causing your site’s load time to slow.

Note that this plugin uses the canvas element for drawing charts and requires Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, or IE9 or later. This plugin will not work in IE8 or lower.

4. Disable hotlinking

Hotlinking is when other sites link directly to the images hosted on your blog from their blog posts or pages. This makes your server load high and decreases the loading speed of your blog.

It is very important to disable hotlinking. To do so, add the following code to your blog’s .htaccess file. Make sure to back up your .htaccess file before you begin to make any changes.

#disable hotlinking of images with forbidden or custom image option
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?yourdomain.com/.*$ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?yourdomain.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?feeds2.feedburner.com/yourdomain [NC]
#RewriteRule \.(gif|jpg)$ ñ [F]
#RewriteRule \.(gif|jpg)$ http://www.yourdomain.com/stealing.gif [R,L]

Make sure to allow your feeds to display the images, however.

5. Limit front page posts

Limit the posts that are shown on your home page. Never show the full posts on the home page, because this will make your site very slow to load. Imagine you have more than eight posts on your home page, and all of them are of 600 words or more—it will likely take a significant amount of time to load the home page.

You should use the excerpts on the homepage and most other pages, instead of showing full posts. To use the excerpts, find the below code in your index.php and other pages that list posts, like archives.php, category.php, and so on.

<?php the_content();?>

Replace that code with this:

<?php the_excerpt();?>

More resources

For more ideas on speeding up your blog, see:

These are simple tips that can help you to make your blog load faster than ProBlogger. What others can you share to increase blog speed?

Dev is a part time blogger and blogs about WordPress Marketing at WPKube. Hit him up on Twitter if you need anything, Dev will be quick in responding and helping you out.

What 60% of ProBlogger Readers Don’t Do that’s Central to My Blogging Success

A couple of weeks ago I ran a census of ProBlogger readers to help us work out how to serve you better in 2012. Thousands of people participated (thanks to everyone!), so I thought I’d share a few of the results that stood out to me. Some of them are based upon comparisons we made to last time we ran a similar survey, around two years ago.

  • How many active blogs? 45.2% of ProBlogger readers have one active blog, 24.3% of you have two, and 11.6% of you have three blogs. Interestingly 8.7% of ProBlogger readers don’t yet have a blog and 1.6% have more than 10!
  • How long have you been blogging? There’s a real spread here. The most common response was 1-2 years (17% of responses) with the next most common responses being 2-3 years (15%), and over 5 years (15%). As you’d expect, the numbers of people who’ve been at it a while have increased as ProBlogger has been going longer.
  • How old are you? The most common age range of ProBlogger readers is 31-40 years of age (29%). Next most common was 41-50 (24%), and 21-30 (19%). I hear a lot of people say that blogging is a young person’s thing. Not necessarily: among our readers, only 2.5% of respondents indicated that they are 20 or under.
  • Gender. We’ve seen a shift here. While previously just over half of readers were male, this time we saw 56% of readers indicating that they were female. What I did find particularly interesting was that we were able to track responses based on where people were referred to the survey from (email, Twitter, G+, etc.). G+ referrers were almost 70% men and blog readers were 60% men. All other referrals were 60-70% women so there were some real discrepancies there in terms of gender.
  • Blog platforms you use. Just over half of those surveyed use WordPress.org. 21% use WordPress.com and 17% use Blogger. The other 12 or so percent were spread out considerably. Interestingly both MovableType and TypePad usage had declined since the last survey.
  • Challenges and problems faced. The biggest challenges readers identified as having were finding readers, monetization, and finding time to blog. Not a lot of change here from last time although the “finding time” response was a bit higher.
  • Monetization methods. 65% of respondents are trying to monetize their blog (a little lower than last time). Interestingly, the methods of monetization have changed a little. More people are selling their own products, more are doing paid reviews, and less are using ad networks and affiliate marketing, and selling ads directly to sponsors. The most common form of monetization, though, was affiliate marketing (35% of responses).
  • Blog design. There was a real spread of types of blog designs being used by ProBlogger readers – but the most common type was buying premium templates. This was one of the big shifts from the last survey to this one—with more and more quality services now existing to design and sell you a great blog template (like my friends at Studio Press, who do all my own blog design) I guess it’s an option that will only grow over time.
  • Email marketing. Perhaps the most surprising result for me in this census were the responses to a question asking readers if they have an email newsletter or do any type of email marketing. Around 60% of you don’t collect any email addresses from readers, or do anything with email. As I’ve written on many occasions, email and newsletters are central to my own approach. Email not only drives traffic to my blogs, it helps me make money. I cannot imagine my own blogs without email. If there was one tip I’d give on how to grow a blog it’d be to get serious about this in 2012!

Thanks to everyone for participating in this year’s census. The above info, plus your thousands of suggestions, have given me (and the team behind ProBlogger) a lot of great ideas.

In fact in the coming months, you’ll see a shift in how we run ProBlogger that’s based upon what we heard in this survey. It will impact the topics of posts you’ll see here on ProBlogger, as well as our approach on numerous other levels. Thanks for making ProBlogger more useful!

Why Most Bloggers will Fail, No Matter How Hard They Try

This guest post is by John Smith of WeightLossTriumph.

If you visit your favorite blogging tips and marketing tips blog today, you will come across a lot of tips, ranging from tips on writing well to tips on building an audience.

The reality is that a lot of new blogs spring up every day, and the majority of these blogs are bound to fail right from the beginning. It’s not because there is something wrong with their approach, but because they fail to neglect something really important: their wellbeing.

Do you know that blogging is not only a physical challenge? It is also a mental challenge.

There are a lot of things we bloggers go through every day that no amount of practice will help make easier, but by focusing on being okay in every aspect of our lives (mental, emotional, physical, etc.) we’ll find those challenges easier to deal with.

In this article I’ll be touching some subjects bloggers hardly discuss online, and I’ll be giving tips to help you deal with them.

Dealing with criticism

Do you know that one of the major dangers of being a blogger is being exposed to criticism? If you’re still a new blogger you might not have noticed it yet, but in over two years of blogging, I have seen several clear examples of blogging criticisms. In fact, I have seen bloggers been sent death threats, and I have seen several bloggers quit because of that. Why? Because they chose to give value to the world through their blogging.

If you think blogging is a bed of roses, or if you think everybody will be your friend, then you need to think twice. There are hateful people online hiding under the cloak of anonymity. There are also people who are ready to vent their anger on you as a result of some personal problem they’re facing. The best way to deal with this is to be prepared, and to get ready for the worst at any time.

Blogging has a great emotional connection to it, and a lot of bloggers these days are starting to pay the price of being celebrities. You need to realize that there are people that will come and vent their hate against you for no reason whatsoever, and you should be ready for them.

I’m not trying to say you should fight back. Instead, I’m telling you not to take it personally. You need to realize that their reason for criticizing you isn’t because you’re the problem. You should also know that not all criticisms are bad. Naturally, there are healthy and unhealthy criticisms, and it is your duty to be able to differentiate the healthy criticisms from the unhealthy ones, and to improve where necessary.

Dealing with failure

Another problem you have to deal with as a blogger is failure. It can get really tough when you plan to achieve something in six months and can’t achieve it in one year—especially when you see another blogger getting better results with what looks like little to no effort in the same time span.

The first tip I have for you is to try to avoid jealousy. You need to realize that failure is part of the game, and that we all have our own challenges and our ways of dealing with them. Don’t be jealous of another blogger’s success. Jealousy is always unhealthy. Instead, take a look at what that blogger is doing, what approach he or she is taking, and start viewing the person as healthy competition.

It’s also very important not to allow your fear of failure prevent you from trying. You need to realize that failure is part of this game, and that not everything is bound to work. If you’re afraid of failing, you will have a hard time succeeding. Your first step is to eliminate every fear of failure within you, so that you can easily try new things no matter what the outcome might be.

Eating well

Do you know that the food you eat can have a great impact on several aspects of your life, including how you think and solve problems, and how you react to emotional challenges?

Have you ever woken up and found it difficult to work hard or get motivated for the day, even though you had a normal sleep the previous night? While sleeping and resting regularly is great, it is very important for you to realize that the food you eat will to a great extent influence your physical activities.

Most things we do as bloggers require us to think and plan effectively, and we also have to deal with the results emotionally—whether good or bad—which is exactly why it is important for us to eat good food to help ourselves be more effective. In other words, eating junk foods makes you dull and emotionally weak, and as a result you will only create poor work that brings bad results. The results will also deal you a massive blow since you’ll likely be emotionally weak.

If you’re emotionally strong, you can easily turn even the worst of problems into a lasting solution, so being careful with what you eat should always be a priority as a blogger.

While you might think you will make a lot more money and get fast results by “saving time” by eating junk foods, you’ll often discover you find it difficult to focus and concentrate because you aren’t in the right frame of mind to do quality work.

Improve your diet, and you’ll be amazed at how much your blogging will improve.

Exercising regularly

Do you know that regular exercise has a lot of benefits, including helping you gain energy and making you more emotionally stable?

I have observed carefully what I can do on a day when I exercise compared to a day when I don’t. I’ve noticed I can get two times more work done if I spend around two hours a day exercising compared to when I don’t.

Are you in a bad mood after waking up in the morning? Do you want to get some serious work done in any given day? Spend at least one hour exercising every day, and you will be amazed at what you can achieve.

To be honest with you, exercising isn’t that easy if you haven’t done it before, so start with ten minutes a day, and then scale it up till you can do one hour a day. Trust me: you will want to do more of it when you see the benefits.

I think, as bloggers, we have a lot more to worry about than our content and marketing ourselves, and we also have to be taking regular measures to ensure we’re physically and mentally active. The above are a few tips that can help you! I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

John is an expert weight loss blogger who teaches people how to lose weight on WeightLossTriumph. He also gives the best nutrisystem coupon code and medifast discount code on his blog.

“Brushing it Off” Vs. “Brushing It Off”

This guest post is by Nick Thacker of Life Hacks for Living Well.

Are you “brushing off” the work you need to complete? Or are you able to “brush it off” when it’s finished, ready to launch into the world?

I’ve had experience brushing off the things that needed to be done—and I’m sure you have, too—but I’ve also had the satisfying feeling of being able to put down my tools and say, finally, “I’m done.”

I’m referring to that point you eventually reach, after many long hours and sleepless nights, where there’s no more you can you can possibly do to improve your project, no more tweaking or adding or altering—it is done, as perfect as it can be.

But this “feeling,” this goal I invariably set for myself prior to embarking on any project, is sometimes fleeting, lofty, and quite unreachable.

Sometimes it’s a matter of scope—the project is too large to possibly accomplish by one person. Other times it’s the lack of direction: we don’t know where to go with our blog—or our business. But still other times it’s just a matter of not understanding clearly our expectations, and the time it takes to complete them.

The right expectations

I was thinking recently about my experience as a Boy Scout during my grade school years. I enjoyed pretty much all of the events, camping trips, and fundraisers we did, but there was one annual event we participated in that was held in much higher esteem than the rest. My father and I, once a school year, would begin that journey every young man so impatiently awaits for the rest of the season—the coveted Pinewood Derby competition.

A “Pinewood Derby” is a small (about 8 inches by 3 inches), four-wheeled vehicle powered by gravity and graphite-rubbed plastic wheel bearings. The cars, two at a time, would be raced down a track made of wood. It sounds simple, but for young American boys everywhere, it was the raison d’etre for joining and paying your dues to the Boy Scouts of America.

Every year, my dad and I would start dreaming about what style and shape to cut, design, and paint my car. We would shoot for the most aerodynamic, stylistic, and awe-inspiring design that would still be allowed in the races (there were, of course, weight and size restrictions!). One year was a “hot dog” design that almost took home the gold, while another year was a failed attempt at a Camaro convertible with a spoiler.

We would start the project most years by planning, blueprinting, and marking the rectangular block of wood with cut marks in pencil (did I mention my dad’s an engineer?). Only after planning, sanding, cutting, and sanding some more could we even begin to think about putting on the cool pewter attachments—engine blocks, headers, and so on. Finally, after letting glue dry, sanding once more, and then waiting a few more days, we would apply the paint to the finished product.

With me as Creative Director and Dad as Chief Technical Officer and Director of Engineering, the product, no matter how poorly it actually performed in the races, would be something prized and rewarding for both of us—it was something we would, literally, “brush off” when we’d finish, take it inside to show Mom, and then put on the trophy shelf after it had served on the racetrack.

One year was different, though. Dad was either out of town during the initial months leading up to the Derby, or I’d just decided I was old enough to get started myself. I had my wood block, access to power tools, and plenty of sandpaper.

Rather than waste time with the planning, creative process, and initial sanding, I decided to jump in get started making my dream car. I’d also decided to start about a week before the competition.

Needless to say, the car was shoddily built. It was sticky to hold, as the paint hadn’t really dried well, the pieces constantly fell off (we had to bring a hot glue gun to the event), and it gave everyone splinters (I said this was part of the car’s built-in defense mechanisms). I had mostly “brushed off” the steps that he’d taught me were necessary. Dad wasn’t overly excited about it, but he knew a lesson was in store for his oldest son.

Sure enough, I realized (though much later in life) what the lesson was: while each stroke of the sandpaper and each slow pull of the paintbrush wouldn’t make a marked difference on the outcome, it was the step-by-step process we went through to ensure every piece of the puzzle was in place that created the final wooden racer.

In short: the whole was much bigger than the sum of its parts.

Embrace the process

That year, I’d skipped out on a lot of the process, and because of that, I couldn’t “brush off” my work and show it off to my friends and fellow scouters.

For my fellow bloggers, here’s the takeaway:

  • Don’t cheat the system: If you’re trying to start a blog, and you know that blogs need great content, don’t spend money on a ton of ghost-written PLR articles that sound exactly the same.
  • Don’t cut corners: If there’s a “standard process” that others in your niche have gone through—maybe they spent most of their early years doing nothing but churning out guest posts and commenting on blogs—don’t think there’s a “secret way” to reach the same level with much less work.
  • Don’t “brush it off”: Don’t brush off the little things. Every comment, every guest post, and every tweet that you send is an ambassador for who you are—what you are—online. I don’t know you from Adam, so if I visit your blog and see posts written at a second-grade reading level with nothing but AdSense everywhere, what do you think that tells me about you? Come on, get it together!

Okay, okay, there’s always the exception that proves the rule.

If, by chance, you do blog for money only—and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that—then you’ll have systems and procedures in place for that as well, and they need to be honored. The same rules apply:

  • If you find that most money-making blogs are earning their income because of their massive amounts of content, why would you think you could do better only writing three or five posts per week? Spend some money on some well-written posts to fill out your site, and spend your time building your business.
  • If you run a business of any kind online, don’t cut the corners or “brush it off,” or you’ll most likely give people splinters. There’s a reason Internet marketers spend so much time cultivating and building their email lists. Why would you think you’re special and can just buy a billion email addresses for $50 bucks?

Don’t skimp

Don’t skimp on the details—they’re what are going to set you apart from every other teenaged marketing “guru” out there, and they’re also going to give you more experience in much less time. As so many business experts and professionals have said, “fail often.” Don’t be afraid to fail—just know that it will be a failure that will help you “brush off” a project (in a good way!) in the future.

“Brush off” your project or business now, and you won’t be able to “brush it off” in the future. Don’t “brush off” your project today, and you’ll be able to “brush it off” and show it off tomorrow.

Get it?

Nick Thacker is interested in learning and writing about ways to live better–his website is Life Hacks for Living Well, and is a repository of tips, tricks, and resources to getting what you want out of life, in a better way. You can subscribe to his feed directly by clicking here.

The Secret Ingredient to a Successful Blog

This guest post is written by Ava Jae of Writability.

If you’ve been blogging for any amount of time, you’ve heard that content is king. You’ve been told that everything else—design, SEO, in and outbound links—those things are a bonus, but the real thing you need to focus on is your content.

And it’s true, content is king, because even an SEO-optimized blog with a beautiful, user-friendly design and a parade of in and outbound links will fail without great content.

But although content is important, there’s something more—something that only you can bring to the table, something that only you have to offer that will really make your blog shine. A secret ingredient that will make your blog unforgettable.

You.

Your voice matters

The fact is, if you’re looking to build your blog on completely unique content, you’re going to run out of ideas very quickly. Chances are anything you want to talk about has already been covered by at least a dozen other bloggers, and it’s not because you’re unoriginal or a terribly unimaginative person—it’s just because there are only so many things to talk about.

The question you need to ask yourself is: what keeps readers coming back to your blog, when they could go elsewhere for the same information?

Can you guess what the answer is? I’m talking about that secret ingredient again. Your voice, your take, your worldview—those are the things that make you memorable. Those are the things that make you stand out in an ocean of blogs.

You have a gift

You have something priceless, a gift that you were born with, a gift often taken for granted: no one can think or speak or write the way you do. The way you put words on the page, how you interpret the world—those are treasures that can’t be taken away from you, treasures you should cherish.

Maybe you’re like me and you write about writing. Guess what?—there are hundreds of writing blogs out there. But there’s only one you.

Maybe you blog about technology, or education, or sports—it doesn’t matter what niche you’re in or what you’re writing about, what matters is you.

Take a look at the last few blog posts you wrote and read them aloud. Do they sound and feel like you, or could anyone have written them? If the answer is the latter, then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity—you’re forgetting to be you.

Yes, content is king. Without something interesting to talk about, your readers won’t come—but without inserting yourself in your content, without weaving in your thoughts, your opinions, your voice into your blog, your readers won’t remember you. They’ll go to another blog with the same content and a better voice.

Don’t be just another blogger. You have something incredible and special and entirely unique because you are the secret ingredient. Isn’t it time your readers see it, too?

Ava Jae is a writer, artist and X-men geek. You can find her weekly musings on her blog Writability, follow her on Twitter, or check out her Facebook page.

6 Laws Every Blogger Needs to Obey so they Don’t Get Sued

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

If you’re a blogger, do you know how to stay on the right side of the law? Do you know what you need to do to keep the FTC from knocking on your door or to keep from getting a dreaded cease and desist letter?

Fortunately you don’t have to be a lawyer or law scholar to understand the laws that govern blogging, particularly in the U.S. In fact, you really only have to understand six basic laws. Let me explain…

note: I’m not a lawyer, so do consult one if you are unsure about any blogging-related laws.

Law #1: Do you have to disclose paid endorsements?

One of the most important developments in the blogosphere when it comes to U.S. law is that bloggers must be open with the fact that they are being paid to use, promote, or review a product.

This all started back in 2006, when the Federal Trade Commission, recognizing that bloggers were displacing traditional ways of advertising that could open up dishonest business practices and conflicts of interest, issued a letter that recommended all bloggers need to be open and honest with their endorsements and reviews.

How open and honest do you have to be? It’s really pretty straightforward if you think about a few things:

  • Label information clearly: Wherever you have content, make it perfectly clear which information is editorial and which is advertising.
  • Come clean with affiliate relationships: This could mean labeling links that drive to your Amazon affiliates, or building a page that explains all of your affiliates and relationships (see Chris Brogan’s About page for an example).
  • Do not claim to be an objective third-party when you are not: You also should explain your relationship with a company when you are talking about them. For example, “Company B, whom I work for, is about to roll out product X.”

To date not one single blogger has been sued over the issue that I know of. But, nonetheless, here is the FTC’s FAQ on the topic.

Law #2: What should I do when someone steals my content?

If you are creating compelling content, it’s bound that somebody will take it and uses it on their site. Sometimes they do it without knowing that they are breaking the law. They may even give you credit and link to your website.

What should you do? Well, it depends.

If you want to protect your work, you should simply send them an email and let them know that what they are doing is called copyright infringement. If you are dealing with an understanding person, then they’ll probably apologize and take the copy down.

If you’re dealing with somebody who doesn’t care what you think, then you’ll need to weigh the cost of pursuing legal action. Typically it’s a very difficult thing to do and will be very expensive.

You can usually discourage people from taking your content by putting a copyright symbol on the footer of your website so it appears on every page.

So when is your work considered to fall under copyright law? Interestingly enough, according to the U.S. laws, it occurs the moment you publish it. So even if you don’t have a copyright symbol, you are still protected.

What exactly is protected on the Internet? Just about everything, including:

  • original copy
  • links
  • images
  • podcasts
  • videos
  • code (HTML, VRML, and other unique markup language sequences)

Still, should you care if someone steals your content? Some bloggers like Leo Babauta do not. He actually encourages people to take his copy as long as they give him credit for it. He calls it his uncopyrighted policy.

Why would he do something like that? He considers the value of spreading his work through this method to be worth more than protecting and defending his rights.

Law #3: Is deep linking legal?

It may come as a surprise to you that there are some doubts to whether deep linking is even legal.

Deep linking is where you write a blog post and then link to another website in that post. However, you don’t link directly to the homepage: you link to a page buried on the site.

For example, one of the sources I used while researching this topic was from a Canadian lawyer who explored some U.S. court decisions on the topic. That link that I just provided does not go to the lawyer’s home page, but to an interior page.

From the perspective of a blogger, it makes more sense to link directly to the page that you are referring to than it does to link to the home page, and then hope the reader can find the information you are referring to.

What’s interesting is that some people have claimed that deep linking is a form of trespassing. One of the most famous U.S. cases was between Ticketmaster and Ticket.com back in 2000.

Ticketmaster’s argument was two-fold: Ticket.com tried to pass off one of their pages as their own when they didn’t link to the home page but an interior page, making it a copyright infringement.

The other argument was that deep linking bypassed the prescribed path a website owner wants its users to go, amounting to trespassing.

It’s not surprising that Ticketmaster lost on both claims.

No other case on this topic has been brought to the court since so it seems safe to say deep linking is a legal practice.

Furthermore, it’s such an accepted SEO practice that there is no reason you should worry that someone might sue you if you deep link to their site. In fact, most people encourage the practice since it brings exposure to their site.

Law #4: Can I use any image on my blog?

The short answer is “no,” because you do not have permission to use just any image. The concern here is that you might use an image that’s not your own, and inadvertently pass it off on your own.

How should you legally use images? Here are four approaches:

  • Link to the owner: One practice is to simply put a link below the picture to the owner of the image. This will not be sufficient in many cases, though.
  • Buy royalty-free images: You can also simply buy royalty-free images and not have to worry about copyright.
  • Use Creative Common images: Another great source to look for free images is to visit the  Creative Commons photos on Flickr. These photos do not have copyright restrictions, but are usually based upon a few Creative Common attributes, like “share,” “modify,” or “non-commercial use.” No matter the attribution type you use, it’s still a polite to link to the original Flickr page. This way, people who visit your site know who owns the image and they can easily find more of their work.
  • Ask for permission: Of course if you find an image you like on someone else’s website, you can always ask them for permission to use it.

Law #5: Who owns user-developed content?

When it comes to reviews, comments or copy on message boards, you do not own the content: the original author owns it.

How could that be? The same law that protects the copy on your blog is the same law that protects people who write something on your site.

A great way to deal with this issue is to have very clear terms on how you will manage user-developed content. In your site’s terms of use, you should spell out a few things:

  • You are at liberty to do with the comments as you please.
  • You will not manipulate them or delete them without having a good reason to.
  • You will remove them if someone requests (this is really up to you).
  • You will require a minimum amount of information so you can avoid anonymous comments.
  • You will delete all comments if and when you expire your blog.

If these terms are stated clearly and openly, you shouldn’t have much of a problem when it comes to the law and user-developed content.

Law #6: How do I have to protect people’s private information?

Privacy on the internet is a huge issue. People are worried that their identities will be stolen, their bank accounts will be drained, and the government will watch their every move if they don’t protect their privacy. Naturally, people want to feel comfortable when they are on your blog.

People online are also worried about spam. For example, they don’t want to share their email address with an email newsletter provider because they’re afraid it will be sold to a handful of marketers.

What is your responsibility when it comes to your user’s information? Of course if you run an ecommerce site, you need to protect their information with secure pages.

But what if you are simply collecting an email address?

A good guideline is to have a clear privacy policy on your website. It could be as simple as “We promise never to rent, sell or share your email address.” Or it could be more elaborate, with an entire page dedicated to it. It just depends on how much information you collect.

Conclusion

As you can see, the law is pretty straightforward when it comes to blogging so if you familiarize yourself with the above situations, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting into trouble.

What other laws do you think are important for bloggers to know about?

PS: as I said, I’m not a lawyer, so do consult one if you are unsure about any blogging-related laws.

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

The Best Blog Growth Strategy is to Say Thank You … a Lot!

This guest post is by Danny Iny of firepolemarketing.com.

Everyone is looking for the best strategy for growing a blog. Is it SEO? PPC? CPV? Guest posting? Twitter? Facebook? CommentLuv? Networking? Attending conferences? Writing great content?

The list goes on—I could fill a page if I had to, and I’ll bet that you could, too.

Every one of these strategies will work for some people, and some of these strategies will work for most people.

But there’s only one strategy that I know of that will work for everyone, and unlike all the other strategies, I didn’t learn it from other bloggers or internet marketing gurus.

I learned it from my parents.

Saying thank you

Image copyright TrudiDesign - Fotolia.com

The “strategy” to which I’m referring is just the common courtesy that we all know and expect. When someone does something nice for you, say two simple words: “thank you.”

Why “thank you” is such an effective strategy

There are actually two reasons why it is very smart strategy to say “thank you” as frequently and creatively as you can.

You see, when you thank someone in a meaningful, heart-felt way, you are communicating that their words and actions have had a positive impact on your life. In their own way, they have helped you to achieve what you have achieved, and become what you have become.

This does two very important things:

  1. It makes them feel useful. We all long to feel useful, whether we have five followers or 500,000. We want to know that our work and actions have meaning and value to others, and this is even more true for people who have been successful, and for whom money no longer needs to be the primary or sole driver. By saying “thank you,” you are telling someone that they have made a difference to you, and that will make them feel good.
  2. It makes them feel invested. When we contribute to something, we care more about how things turn out. By thanking someone for the positive influence and impact that they have had on your life and career, you will make them feel a little more invested in the outcome of your endeavors—and more likely to want to support you as you work towards your goals in the future.

So in short, by thanking people, you make them feel good, and make them want to help you a little bit more in the future. Plus, it’s just basic courtesy.

So … what should you thank people for?

Don’t wait for the grand gestures

Don’t pester people for big favors, and wait for grand gestures that will never arrive. Instead, look at where you are today, and take careful stock of the people who have helped you to get to where you are.

Their help could be big, like the teachers and mentors that have guided you along the way, or it could be smaller, like the blogger whose example you are following, or the author of an article that gave you an insight into what you should be doing in order to succeed.

Here are just a few of the things that you could thank people for:

  • reading your blog, and leaving a comment
  • subscribing to your list
  • linking to your content
  • tweeting about something you wrote
  • writing something that inspired you
  • teaching you how to do something that you didn’t know before
  • making time to answer your question when they didn’t have to
  • being courteous and helpful in their interactions with you
  • introducing you to someone or something of value.

This is just a start, but I think it gets the point across. The masters of social media are experts at thanking people for all of these things, and lots more—in fact, for many of them, it is the cornerstone of their strategy for building an engaged audience!

Say it in a way that counts

The way you actually go about expressing your gratitude matters. Remember, you want to communicate that a positive impact has been made in your life, and if that’s the case, then don’t you owe it to them to put some thought and heart into it?

For starters, the worst way to say thank you is with a generic comment to the effect of “Great post!”  A comment like that doesn’t communicate why you thought it was great. What impact did it actually have on you? What did you learn?

If you want to convey authentic gratitude, then these are important things to express.

The other reason why a “great post” comment doesn’t cut it is that your “great post” comment will probably be added to several dozen others that are almost exactly the same. If you want to make an impression, you have to do it in a way that stands out from the crowd. For example, you could:

  • send the person an email saying that you appreciate their work (without asking for anything)
  • mention their work in your own writing, and link to it (try to always link to a post, rather than the homepage of a blog, so that they get a pingback and see it)
  • send them a small gift when appropriate (like a book that you think they’d enjoy, relating to something that they’ve written about)
  • introduce them to someone who can help them
  • praise them publicly, for example on your blog, or on Twitter (make sure to @mention them!)
  • send them a handwritten note expressing why you are grateful.

These are just a few ideas, and I’m sure that if you take a few minutes to brainstorm (or search on Google), you’ll find a lot more. The key is to stand out, and communicate in a noticeable way that you are genuinely grateful.

Of course all of this has to be genuine, and not just a manipulation…

The right thing and the smart thing are the same thing

The world of social media can sometimes be touchy about actions that are seen as self-serving, and things get even more complicated when there is an up-side to doing the right things.

I mean, shouldn’t you be thanking people just because it’s the right thing to do? Isn’t it just manipulation if you thank them because you’re trying to get something in return?

The answer to those questions, of course, is yes—you should be thanking people because it’s the right thing to do, and if you’re just thanking people when you don’t mean it, and you’re simply trying to get something out of them, then you’re a manipulative jerk.

That’s not what I’m suggesting at all.

On the contrary. I’m saying that you have genuine reason to grateful to a lot of people, and that thanking them is the right thing to do.

The funny thing about business, though, is that often the right thing and smart thing are the same thing!

So make a list of the people to whom you have genuine reason to be grateful, and say thank you.

Who can you thank today?

So who has helped you recently? And how can you make them feel good about the special thing that they’ve done for you?

My list would be pretty long, but here is just a starting example, to get you going:

What about you? Who can you thank today? And how are you going to do it?

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, expert marketer, and the Freddy Krueger of Blogging. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on how to build an engaged audience from scratch.